Story of Schindler's List...
That is our theme this morning and for this series of studies in the Gospel of John which will take us to Christmas. In each we shall consider the Deity of Christ and the Destiny of Christians. It cannot be overstated that it is the only through Jesus Christ that we can ever know God, can ever experience his love and forgiveness, and have eternal life. That is why it is so important that we understand who Jesus claimed to be and why He came, and respond to Him. That is why the title of this series is 'The Deity of Christ and the Destiny of Christians.'
Lets begin at the beginning and look at John 1:1-18 under three headings.
You may like to follow using the outline found in your news sheet.
The Word Revealed : The Object of Belief Expounded 1:1-4
The Word Rejected : The Blindness of Unbelief Encountered 1:5-11
The Word Received : The Joys of True Belief Experienced 1:12-18
1. THE WORD REVEALED : John 1:1-4
THE OBJECT OF BELIEF EXPOUNDED: JESUS BORN DIVINE
No where in the NT is the nature and meaning of Jesus' divine sonship so clearly explained as here. Notice how carefully and conclusively John expounds this theme. He does not bring the term "Son" into his opening sentences at all.
The phrase "Son of God" was tainted with misleading connotations in the minds of his first Century readers. Jewish theology used it as a title for the expected human Messiah. Greek mythology told of many "sons of gods" supermen born of a union between a god and a human mother. In neither of these cultures did the phrase convey the thought of a personal deity; indeed both excluded it.
John wanted to make sure that when he wrote of Jesus as the Son of God he would not be misunderstood. Instead John describes the Lord Jesus Christ as the Word or "logos". Old Testament readers would pick up the reference at once. God's Word in the OT is His creative utterance, His power in action fulfilling His purpose. Genesis 1 tells us, for example, how at creation "God said, let there be... and there was..." (Gen 1:3). Again in Psalm 33:6,9, it says "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made... He spoke and it came to be." The Word of God is thus no less than God at work. John takes up this figure and proceeds to tell us seven things about the divine Word.
1. His Eternity
"In the beginning was the Word". That is not a very accurate translation. In the original Greek, John says "in beginning", not "in the beginning"
There is no article. John is therefore saying that before space-time-history began Jesus has always existed. He had no beginning of His own. His eternity.
2. His Personality
"And the Word was with God". Here is the Word's personality.
The power that fulfils God's purpose is not an impersonal force be with you as in Star Wars. It is the power of a distinct personal being, who stands in an eternal relation to God, in eternal communion with the Father. His eternity, personality,
3. His Deity
"And the Word was God". Here is the Word's deity. Though personally distinct from the Father, he is not a creature; He is divine in Himself, as is the Father.
There was no loss of divinity in the Word becoming humanity. As the second Article of the Church of England puts it, "Two whole and perfect natures...
Godhead and Manhood", were at the incarnation, "joined together in one person, never to be divided... very God and very man." JW's desecrate this verse by adding one single vowel "a" Their corrupted New World Translation reads "The word was a god" As I have already said, there are no definite articles here.
There is neither an "a" nor "the". The word order in the Greek is so clear "And God was Word" (John 1:1) Not only was the Word with God, he was and is God.
In eternity past the Father and Son dwelt in perfect communion.
Many people down the centuries have choked on this truth, and have been unable, or rather unwilling to accept it. JWs are a good example.
Listen to how Calvin demolished the critics of his own day.
"Servetus, that most arrogant Spaniard imagines that the eternal word came into being only when he was exercised in the creation of the world. As if he was not, before his power was made known by his outward operation! The evangelist teaches quite differently, and destroys every loophole for such drivelling nonsense when he affirms unconditionally that the word was with God, and was God."
Fully God, equal with the Father, His eternity, His personality, His divinity.
4. His Creativity
"Through Him all things were made." Here is the eternal Word creating.
He was the Father's agent in every act of making that the Father has ever performed. It is no accident that there is such a strong parallel here between John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1. Jesus was not created, He is the uncreated creator.
5. His Vitality
"In Him was life". Here is the Word animating, breathing life into creation.
Here is the Bible's answer to the problem of the origin and continuance of life in all its forms. Life is given and sustained by Jesus Christ.
Created things do not have life in themselves, independent from their creator.
6. His Luminosity
"And that life was the light of men." (John 1:4). Here is the Word revealing.
In giving life, He gives light too. That is to say, all people receive intimations of God from the very fact of being alive in God's world. We are made in His image. There is an awareness of God the creator all around us in the complexity, the beauty, the wonder of creation. There is a sense of God in our intellect that seeks after Him, in our conscience that so often runs away from Him. This illumination, however marred by depravity, blinded by self-centredness, hardened by sin, still shines through the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. That is why people are without excuse if they deny Him.
7. His Humanity
"The Word became flesh" (John 1:14). The word became flesh.
The sentence literally means this took place at a point in space time.
As the eternal Word He therefore existed before he became man.
The word for "lived" means tabernacled" or "camped". In modern English we would say he "council housed", or he "bungalowed" among us. 1:18. The mystery of the incarnation is unfathomable. We cannot explain it, we can only formulate it. The Athanasian Creed probably expresses the truth John speaks of here, better than any other. "Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.... perfect God, and perfect man:... who although He be God and man; yet is He not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by taking of the manhood into God."
Our minds cannot go beyond this.
What we see in the manger is, in Charles Wesley's words, "Our God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made man." Jim Packer adds, "Incomprehensibly.... we shall be wise to remember this, to shun speculation, and contentedly to adore." The Word Revealed. Seven truths about the Lord Jesus Christ. John has established the point at which he has been aiming throughout. He has made it very clear what it means to call Jesus the Son of God.
But the Word revealed also became,
2. THE WORD REJECTED : John 1:5-11
THE BLINDNESS OF UNBELIEF ENCOUNTERED - JESUS BORN TO DIE
Christmas is all about family gatherings. We usually spend Christmas visiting our relatives in East Anglia. Imagine travelling half way across the country, on foot, to spend Christmas with your family, only to be disowned on the doorstep on Christmas eve. Being homeless at Christmas is no joke. Becoming a refugee fleeing persecution from your own people is unthinkable. But that's what happened to Jesus. The Son of God came to Gods chosen people, the Jews.
And most rejected Him. Why? Against the good purposes of God a contrary principle emerged on earth. A darkness, an arrogance, a defiant independence, a rebellion which opposes Gods rule, and has infected our world. We find it in the playground, we experience it on the motorways, we observe it on the floor of the House of Commons, we see it at the United Nations. It is manifest in things like selfishness, greed, evil and death. It is personified and intensified in men like Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussain, Ivan Karagich. But before we point the finger, we realise that this infection is present in us all too. This is the reason the Word born divine was the Word born to die.
Jesus came to die, to give His life a ransom for many. To break through the wall of separation between a Holy God and sinful world. To satisfy God's righteous wrath and take away our sin. A question I often ask people is, "If you could know God personally would you be interested? According to surveys, between 70-80% of people in Britain would say yes. But will they RSVP? For some it depends on whether we deliver the invitation personally. For most it will depend on whether they accept God's diagnosis of their condition, whether they accept his remedy. For our rescue must be on God's terms. Bertrum Russell once said, "Most people would rather die than think.... and most people do." Many reject their Creator, preferring to remain in darkness. But the power of the Word could not and cannot be understood by that darkness, it cannot be swamped, overwhelmed or eclipsed by it. Recently I was invited to return to the Czech Republic to teach at a student Bible conference. One person I would like to meet is a Catholic priest, Father Vaclav Maly. The last time I visited Prague it was the winter of 1988, and I had to do so covertly. We had to meet with the students in secret, in a remote hideaway, out in the hills. After the conference, back in Prague for a few days rest I stood in St Vitas, the Cathedral, and prayed for the those young Christians we had met.
The building was virtually empty, a sleeping giant. It was hard praying, praying against the evil powers that still gripped that countries political system, military and government, hard to imagine it ever being different. The Czech Baptist pastor I had worked with had already been questioned about my visit, since our movements had been monitored. I didn't realise it at the time but as I was walking the streets of Prague, Father Vaclav Maly was probably cleaning the toilets of the subways.
A week or so after my visit, a demonstration of students peacefully made their way to St Wenceslas Square to commemorate an anniversary. The twenty year anniversary of Jan Palach's suicidal protest of the Soviet invasion of their country. Before the students could reach their destination, a group of policemen dispersed them with tear gas and water cannon.
But the people would not give up. During the third week of November.... (Colson). The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it, has not eclipsed it. In 1988 I taught just a handful of students, some truths from the Word of God. In the years since then, those faithful students have shared their faith, discipled new believers, to the point where last Summer, a colleague of mine, Terry taught at a conference of several hundred eager students. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not eclipsed it. The word revealed - Jesus born divine, The word rejected - Jesus born to die,
3. THE WORD RECEIVED : JOHN 1:12-18
THE JOYS OF TRUE BELIEF EXPERIENCED - JESUS BORN TO SAVE
The Berlin Wall may be down for good. But the way the Russian economy is going at the moment I would not be surprised if another wall is erected nearer to Moscow. There are many others in our world if you look hard enough. The great Wall of China, the bamboo curtain has lasted much longer and is soon to embrace Hong Kong. There is another through the middle of Korea, several criss-crossing what was once Yugoslavia, still another in the Sudan, there's one in Sri Lanka, another in Cyprus. But the greatest barrier is an invisible one. As Alexander Solzenitsyn once said, "the dividing line between good and evil...." Isaiah describes this work of God as nothing less than a heart transplant, the replacing of a heart of stone with a living heart. Jesus has done what no one else could do, he has revealed what God is like. Jesus born divine. Jesus born to die. Jesus born to save. Through Jesus we can be brought into a personal relationship with God. Repeat verse 12.
He not only had the power to reveal what God is like, he also has the power to bring us into God's family, as adopted children. The word "Christian" has been rather abused in recent years. Its a nonsense to describe Britain or any other nation as a "Christian" nation, or even "post Christian". Only Jesus has the right to say who is a child of God, and in these verses he tells us how. The shops are beginning to gear up to Christmas which is only 90 days away. You may have celebrated Jesus birthday for many years but have you received Jesus into your life? If not the wall of separation between you and God which may have been up for decades, can come down. As Stephen Hawking on the BT advert puts it "It doesn't have to be like this for ever." You can be reconciled with God.
You can come in out of the cold. I am going to close with a prayer and if God has spoken to you this morning and you would like to receive Jesus please pray with me. If you are unsure of our relationship with God and want to be sure, then please pray with me. Lets pray...............
If you prayed that prayer with me for the first time, you can know for sure that you are a child of God. God is your father, every Christian is your brother and sister, heaven is your home and every day is one day nearer. Tell someone today what you have done, and let me know sometime today too. The cold war is over. Welcome home.
Stephen R. Sizer
12 September 1998